Peter Pan Seafoods will pay anglers at least $1 per pound of Bristol Bay sockeye salmon

Fishermen at the PAF shipyard in Dillingham shortly after Peter Pan Seafoods announced its pre-season 2021 base price. (Brian Venua/KDLG)

Peter Pan Seafoods has announced a base price of $1.00 per pound for Bristol Bay sockeye salmon for the 2022 season.

Peter Pan is the first processor to announce its base price this season, following a precedent set last year when it became the first company in decades to tell anglers what they would be paid before the start of the season.

Peter Pan’s Bristol Bay manager Travis Roenfanz said the company wanted to let anglers know the minimum price for their fish before they go out on the water.

“We did this out of respect for our partners, the fishermen. And just like in 2021, it’s a starting point for us,” he said. “We want to price the fishing as it goes and will make adjustments to this price as the season progresses.”

This year’s base price of $1.00 is just below the 12-year average of $1.04 and lower than in 2021, when Peter Pan set the initial price at $1.10 , then pushed it up to $1.25 in July. Roenfanz said the company knows this year’s base won’t be so popular. But officials still wanted to announce the price early. Before last year, anglers generally didn’t know the minimum payment for their fish until well into the season.

“We wanted the fishermen to have the guarantee that it will not be less than a dollar. We expect to see it soar. And so we call it an initial base price,” Roenfanz said.

Bristol Bay is expected to see over 70 million sockeye return to the bay this season, with around 60 million fish available to harvest. That’s about double the long-term average, and it’s more than 40% above the average for the past decade.

Mat Serf, a set net from Nushagak district who fishes for Peter Pan, said the base $1.00 is a bit deflating. Still, he hopes the company will raise the price this season.

“Under current economic conditions, processors are currently trapped in labor costs and overall operating costs,” he said. “They could shift the blame to the fishermen and let them hold the bag, but hopefully a dollar isn’t where it lands. And that it can at least keep pace with the rising cost of living that everyone is facing this year.

Inflation rates have reached their highest level in 40 years and, like many others, fishermen are facing soaring prices for essentials such as food and petrol. The Labor Department reports that consumer prices in May were 8.6% higher than a year earlier.

Another fisherman from the Serf crew, Jerik Lee, is entering his second season fishing in the bay. He said he would like to better understand how processors determine prices.

“I haven’t heard a really clear explanation yet of how they set their prices,” he said. “Apparently that leaves fishermen in our silos, sort of rationalizing why a price might be set. And it seems that more transparency from the processor would help us to be comfortable in terms of price.

Higher costs and supply chain issues factored into this year’s lower base, Roenfanz said.

“You’re definitely seeing an increase in employee transportation in and out of the region. We are seeing an increase in our freight, our fuel. It’s at all levels. Everything seems to be higher than we anticipate for sure,” he said. “A very big problem we face is just to supply ourselves with the shortages that exist. It’s difficult to get the things you need to operate.

Roenfanz said the price increase will depend on factors such as the timing of the run, the number of fish returning and their size.

“I think you might see things as early as a few days, or it might take a few weeks to see those things accelerate,” he said.

Bristol Bay processors generally pay the same base price for sockeye salmon, although premiums vary. So far, no other company has announced what it will pay for its fleet this season.

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Tanya S. Norvell